October 21, 2014

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Dan Coughlin: This year’s Indians are tough to dislike

Jim Murray was correct. Your typical sports journalist roots for the story, not for the team.
We want a compelling story. Cinderella is the story, not her stepsisters. Please, give us David over Goliath. We want George Washington to upset the Hessians. We want to be read.
Naturally, the home team gets covered with a unique passion. But when no home team is involved, such as the World Series or the Super Bowl or the Masters or a title fight, it’s almost impossible not to have a quiet, subtle preference.
This time the Indians are a team the national media can root for.
A decade or so ago, during the heyday of the Indians’ resurrection, they had the opportunity to capture the hearts of a nation. The Indians were a franchise that hadn’t won anything for almost 50 years, but they arrogantly strutted out there with a chip on their shoulders the size of a cinder building block.
“Who are these guys and why do they act this way?” was the question the visiting media were too polite or too intimidated to ask.
Visiting media? Hell, nobody — from this town or any other town — was comfortable around some of those guys.
Unfortunately, the entire team took a rap for a handful of weird characters who comprised, sadly, the face of the franchise.
It is redundant to even mention the weirdest of the weird — Albert Belle. Calling him weird is a compliment because it implies he was merely unusual or odd.
Erase that word. He was mean and demented. Not even his teammates wanted to be around him, even though he was the best player on the team.
Then there was Manny Ramirez, who was blithely oblivious to any personal connection with the planet Earth. I have no proof, but it is possible that he was dropped off here in error by an alien spaceship.
Manny is harmless and shows no curiosity about his existence here. For all we know, his native tongue is the language on planet QN 2493 in the constellation Orion.
Some of us thought Eddie Murray was moody, but he wasn’t. He was one of the most consistent people I’ve ever known. He was always sullen. Later he was the hitting coach for the Indians and the Dodgers but it never worked out.
Even Kenny Lofton had an attitude. Maybe that explains why he has spent time with almost a dozen teams — including the Indians three times.
As a result, the PR load was carried by Jim Thome, the Alomar brothers and Omar Vizquel … and it got heavy. Day after day, night after night, they had to explain how it felt to watch Albert Belle hit 50 homers.
The visiting media who cover the Indians in the playoffs this year will wind up rooting for them. The biggest superstar is C.C. Sabathia, who’s also one of the most approachable. When he says getting a ring is more important than winning the Cy Young, I believe him.
Go down the lineup. Never has the offensive load been shared more equally by more guys in the history of this franchise. It is highly likely that Casey Blake will reach the 20-homer mark by the end of the week, which will give the Indians six everyday players with at least 20 homers but not 30.
Nobody dominates, but they all contribute. Furthermore, you won’t find an “attitude” among them.
Blake talks about the harmony on this club. They seem to like each other.
It’s not as obvious as the “We Are Family” Pirates who sang and danced their way to the 1979 World Series championship, but the results could be the same.
Dan Coughlin is a columnist for The Chronicle-Telegram and a sportscaster for Channel 8. Contact him at ctsports@chroniclet.com.